When a painting contractor says it’s “licensed”, what exactly does that mean?

Every state has its own set of licensing rules and regulations, and state licensure enables the state to regulate a profession, occupation, or business.  “Consumer protection is our mission” says Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).  In California, for example, anyone performing construction work that totals $500 or more in labor and materials must be licensed by the California State Licensing Board … so, if painting contractors want to perform work valued at $500 or more, they are required to obtain a trade license in order to legally do business in California.

In Colorado, only two construction trades are required to be licensed by the state – plumbers and electricians. A trade or professional license (NOT to be confused with a business license) generally requires passing a competency test on trade/professional skills and general business practices, paying a fee, proving adequate insurance coverage, and continuing education.  General construction contractors are not regulated by the state – they’re regulated at the local level through municipalities, cities or counties.  Many cities and counties in Colorado do issue contractors and subcontractors licenses.

Regarding business licenses, the State of Colorado does not have a state business license or generic general license.  Some licenses are issued at the Colorado Department of Revenue or the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) for specific types of businesses, professions, and activities.  Most Colorado cities have their own city business license application – city licensing may also be referred to as a Sales and Use Tax license.

So, when a Colorado painting contractor says it’s “licensed”,

  • It does not mean that it’s regulated by the State of Colorado;
  • It may mean that it has a particular city business license;
  • It may mean that it is licensed as a subcontractor by a particular Colorado city or county;
  • It may mean that it has a Sales and Use Tax license;
  • Or …  ?